JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – South Africa fired coach Pitso Mosimane Tuesday after hopes of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil suffered a severe setback last weekend when held 1-1 at home by Ethiopia.
National football association CEO Robin Petersen travelled from Johannesburg to the squad camp in the north-west mining town Rustenburg following an emergency executive committee meeting and the coach was axed just after midnight.
Assistant coach and former captain Steve Komphela has been placed in charge for another World Cup qualifier this Saturday in Botswana and a June 15 home friendly against Gabon.
Gordon Igesund, who guided Moroka Swallows to second place in the 2011-2012 South African Premiership and is widely regarded as the best local coach not to handle the nationial team, has been touted as a long-term replacement.
Bafana Bafana (The Boys) were fortunate to draw in Rustenburg against Ethiopia, a star-less national team 71 places below their opponents on the FIFA world rankings.
The top seed-bottom seed clash was, in theory, the easiest of six fixtures South Africa will face in Group A as they seek a fourth World Cup appearance after qualifying for 1998 and 2002 and hosting the 2010 tournament.
After meeting Botswana at the tiny University of Botswana ground, 2013 Africa Cup of Nations hosts South Africa have a World Cup break until next March when they face rapidly-improving Central African Republic.
Mosimane, a 47-year-old ex-national team striker who played professionally in Greece, succeeded famous Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira after South Africa became the first hosts not to reach the second round of the World Cup.
His reign began promisingly with a friendly victory over 2010 World Cup quarter-finalists Ghana and they looked set to reach the Cup of Nations finals until Mosimane committed a scarcely believable blunder.
Misinterpreting the competition rules, he believed a home draw with Sierra Leone would clinch top place on the standings and adopted defensive tactics to achieve that result, then watched his team ‘celebrate’ qualification.
But as the dancing and singing subsided, a stunned Mosimane discovered they had been pipped by Niger on the head-to-head rule and South African missed a second consecutive Cup of Nations tournament.
South Africa have gone seven matches without a win since last August and Mosimane has blamed everyone but himself for the failure of the team to score regularly in competitive and friendly games.
He abruptly discarded ageing striker Siyabonga Nomvethe after the 2010 World Cup only to recall the 34-year-old leading South African Premiership scorer for the Ethiopia qualifier.
But the reigning South African Footballer of the Year could not translate domestic league form to the international stage and seldom threatened the Ethiopian defence.